"We cannot afford to lose anything to waste or graft and corruption."
President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, State of the Nation Address, 2001
ESTIMATES COULD BE AS HIGH AS P2.7-TRILLION
IN NINE YEARS
ALLEGED CORRUPTION IS ARROYO'S
DARKEST LEGACY – CHIZ
Opposition Senator Chiz Escudero yesterday said the allegations of corruption in high places may very well be the darkest legacy of the Arroyo administration's nine years in power.
"It is ironic that an administration brought to power by a rising against alleged corruption stands accused of robbing more from the country's treasury," he said.
Escudero said studies show that revenues lost annually to corruption in the Bureau of Internal Revenue is over P200 billion, while around P100 billion is diverted by grafters at the Bureau of Customs.
"Multiply it by nine years and we get P2.7 trillion in funds lost to corruption in these two bureaus alone, which is about twice our national budget for this year. All these diverted funds, even half of it, could have been used to create more jobs, build more classrooms, and turn around the impoverished lives of many of our people," he said.
Escudero said the Asian Development Bank cited a report by the Department of Finance showing that P242 billion had been lost to corruption in the Bureau of Internal Revenue in 2003 alone.
In the same year, a separate report by the UN Conference of Trade and Development reported a discrepancy of US$10 billion between recorded exports of US$44 billion to the Philippines and official government data on the country's imports of US$34.5 billion 2003, said Escudero.
"Officials or employees of these agencies exercise discretion. In my book, discretion in government offices is equal to corruption," he said.
"The next administration must minimize discretion to minimize corruption. Eliminate discretion and you eliminate corruption. Sadly, this administration has strayed far away from the path of good governance."
Escudero said salaries of officials and employees in these bureaus should be raised to levels that will make them think twice about engaging in corrupt practices even as lifestyle checks are done periodically to further discourage thievery in the ranks.
The alleged widespread corruption in the country, he said, has not escaped the attention of the international community.
Escudero said Freedom House in its latest report said high-level corruption in the Philippines is widespread while cronyism and influence peddling remains unchecked in government and business.
He also noted the Philippines' ranking in Transparency International's Corruption Perception Index has fallen sharply during Arroyo's presidency. In 2004, the country's rank was 102. It continued to plummet in 2005 when the Philippines was ranked 117th.
"In 2006, we were 121st. In 2007, our rank dived to131st. In 2008, we plunged down to 141. What can be clearer proof that this administration has failed to rid, or even minimize, corruption in government," the senator said.
SANA (Sana Naipatupad ni Arroyo) Totoo Series
(In time for the ninth SONA of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, opposition Sen. Francis Joseph "Chiz" G. Escudero presents his take on her performance in realizing her administration's avowed core agenda – food security, good governance, jobs, and education. In the SANA-TOTOO series of articles (video), Sen. Escudero contends that President Arroyo failed to deliver on her promise in all four key areas.)